Checking in on… Conference USAPosted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008
Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.
It was quite an eventful week for Conference USA basketball, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
The issues off the court practically overshadowed the actual games this week as the season has picked up after final exams.
- UAB loses four players: It has become a pattern that each year under coach Mike Davis the UAB basketball program loses players to academic, attitude and other off-the-court issues. This past week the Birmingham News reported that Ed Berrios, Armon Bassett, Jeremy Mayfield and Terrence Roderick all were booted off the team due to a failure to comply with team academic and conduct standards. Bassett was a transfer from the troubled Indiana program and was sitting out this season and Mayfield had not been eligible for the fall semester. Roderick had averaged 5.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, while Berrios averaged 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds. While the Blazers do not lose any starters, they now have only 6 scholarship players available for the rest of the year.
- The future of Blazer hoops: Next season the UAB basketball program will have at most 3 scholarship players and a walk-on back in the fold. This would create a situation quite similar to the one in Indiana and the Blazers would likely have one of the youngest teams in college basketball. Mike Davis’ repeated failure to bring in athletes who’ll stay eligible should be enough for the UAB administration to find a new coach. Even though the Blazers have a 7-3 record currently, they are living on borrowed time. In this writer’s opinion, a program with this kind of tradition should expect better.
- Tiger Flagship?: The word ‘rough’ would be an adequate description of how things have gone the last week for the Memphis hoopers. First they looked uninspired in a home 58-51 win against Arkansas-Little Rock, in which they shot a measly 33.3% from the field. On ESPN this past Saturday the Tigers fell to the #11 Syracuse Orange and were a shockingly bad 7-33 from the three-point line. While Tyreke Evans leads the Tigers with 14.9 points, he is clearly not the same kind of player as last year’s super freshman Derrick Rose.
- Miner Improvements: There are few teams with more potential in this conference than UTEP. Up to this point they haven’t shown much consistency or at least they didn’t until this past week. Last Tuesday the Miners hosted Texas Tech and absolutely dismantled them in a 96-78 victory. Guards Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper scored a combined 55 points, while super frosh forward Arnett Moultrie added 15 points. They also got a bit of revenge for an earlier loss by soundly beating I-10 rival New Mexico State 84-69 last Saturday. They may not have the most impressive record at 6-4, but it looks like the Miners are peaking at the right time.
- SMU gets SWACed: In my CUSA summaries this year I haven’t talked much about the SMU hoops program. And it’s been for good reason: they’re terrible and have shown few signs of life under coach Matt Doherty. But the Mustangs took bad basketball to new levels when they lost 64-62 at home to previously 0-7 Arkansas-Pine Bluff. This UAPB team plays in the worst conference in college basketball: the SWAC. No team in CUSA should ever lose to a SWAC team… especially not at home. The aforementioned Coach Doherty is simply a terrible basketball coach and that should been evident when he couldn’t win at North Carolina. How can you not win at North freakin’ Carolina? Anyway, the Mustangs did show some signs of life in a 66-56 loss to Texas A&M and now have the services of Georgia Tech transfer Mouhammed Faye.
- CUSA takes on big names: The ECU basketball program has gotten off to a surprising 8-2 start and now face their biggest tests here in the month of December. The Pirates’ first test came on the road against NC State and it was a tight contest until the Wolfpack went on an 18-2 run early in the second half to put the game away. Guard Brock Young did score 25 points for the Pirates in the loss. Even though they are extremely young, the UCF Golden Knights have shown that they can play with some good teams. However when they took on the in-state rival Florida Gators, the Knights showed their youth in an 89-61 blowout loss in Jacksonville. This was supposed to be the breakout year for Southern Miss and coach Larry Eustachy, but so far it has not met expectations. The Golden Eagles were ice cold from the field against Kansas State, shooting at a 31.3% clip in a 74-55 loss to the Wildcats.